Home Money My auto insurer denied a claim because my policy does not cover travel. What I do?

My auto insurer denied a claim because my policy does not cover travel. What I do?

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The devil in the details: the definition of a single word,

I work in London and live in Hertfordshire, so I rely on driving to the local train station and then taking public transport to the capital.

Last October, I was driving home from the station when I hit a man who had crossed into the road.

Police said the man was “clearly intoxicated,” that it wasn’t my fault, and that he escaped unharmed.

So I was surprised when my broker, Hastings, got in touch in February to tell me that the man had filed a claim.

The devil in the details: the definition of a single word, “displacements”, is the heart of the problem

Hastings told me that my Advantage insurance policy did not cover me, as my contract only covers “social, domestic and pleasure” (SDP) use.

Hastings maintains that I was traveling home and therefore should have bought a ‘social, domestic, leisure and travel’ (SDP+C) policy.

Surely ‘traveling’ would involve driving my car to and from work, not a couple of miles of an 80 mile round trip to work and back.

I’m worried about facing a large legal bill and no insurance coverage.

This is Money’s Sam Barker responds: This whole situation revolves around answering one question: what is commuting?

For insurers, an SDP car insurance policy would cover the use of the car for daily car trips such as visiting people, going to the shops, picking up children from school, etc.

The enhanced SDP+C policy, usually more expensive, also covers travel.

The reason insurance companies worry about this is that it can pose a greater risk to them when commuting, such as leaving a car parked and unattended in public for a long period of time, or driving more miles.

The problem here is how “displacement” is defined, which varies wildly between insurance companies.

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Some, like Comparethemarket, LV, Confused.com and Admiral, explicitly say that driving to the train station and leaving your car there counts as commuting.

Others, including his own broker, Hastings, are less clear.

The wording of your policy says: “What is not covered: Travel to and from a permanent place of business or study.”

To me, and to you, and no doubt to many others, that sounds like you’re not covered for the use of your car for an entire trip, or even part of it.

But Hastings accused him, saying he had “violated the terms of their policy agreement.”

A Hastings employee told him: ‘Your policy coverage is for social use only; however, we understand that at the time of the collision it was being used to travel to Bishops Stortford train station and then travel to London for work.

‘Therefore, the ‘essential character’ of the trip was to get to and from the place of work.’

Obviously, this is incorrect about one thing: you were driving home from the train station at the end of the day and you weren’t heading there at the beginning.

Anyway, Hastings stood firm and told him that it would not cover the claim, if he was successful, which could have left him with a very large bill.

This is Money approached Hastings to ask the firm to reconsider and agree to cover it for any legal bills resulting from the claim, arguing it was being unclear and unfair.

Hastings then agreed to fight the claim and cover the cost anyway, and said it would clarify its wording about what “displacement” meant.

The broker said he had tried to contact you, which you deny.

A spokesperson for Hastings said: “We have continued to investigate the claim and attempted to contact your reader to discuss this on a number of occasions, unfortunately as we were unable to contact her a standard letter was sent.”

‘We would always prefer to discuss complex claims with our policyholders to confirm and clarify all aspects of the claim.

‘We have now been able to speak to Jane and have discussed this in detail with her, from this conversation we can now confirm that we intend to cover the cost of the claim.

“Generally, this approach is one we would take with all clients in this position, regardless of the technical wording of the policy (clarity on the wording around commuting is already scheduled for an update), although, as you can imagine, We would review each case on its own merit depending on your circumstances.

“It is our full intention to contest and defend the case brought by the third party, and we do not expect Jane to cover any of those costs.”

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